When we awoke on November 29, 2008, little did we know our lives would change forever.
That day was one of our best - and absolutely the worst day - ever.
In the beginning, that Saturday was the perfect family day. We woke to beautiful weather, especially for November, and immediately set to decorating our house for the holidays. It was an annual tradition to decorate Thanksgiving weekend.
Christmas songs filled the air, from our outside sound system. Tim and Noah went to the roof to put up lights and Austin and me decorated the rest of the outside. I remember how everyone was in such a good mood -and even that day I paused several times, counting my blessings for such wonderful memories. Austin and Noah got along perfectly that day and even wrestled outside in the yard, tickling each other. I remember commenting, "wow. what a great family day!"
As I finished up outside, Austin came in and began to decorate the inside of the house. He'd never done this before and actually in the past kind of groaned about decorating. He would poke fun of my traditions and how I had to take pictures of every special ornament and person hanging it. But that day, he loved it.
He put up the "kids tree," which goes in our kitchen, and has all their homemade ornaments by himself. He surprised us with it when we came in from a quick trip to the store with last minute supplies. He had left it bare, except for the lights, so that Noah could help hang the ornaments. I was so touched at the gesture and we spent the next hour or so pulling out each memory. The kids would comment about what grade they were in when they made this one or how much they liked that one. The last to go on was the "star" which we made from cut-outs of their hand prints a few years back.
Afterwards, I was tired from our long day and asked to put off the big tree until Sunday. Austin wouldn't have it. "It is tradition, Mom. We have to do it all tonight." And so we did. And it was wonderful.
He had grown so much the last few years - well over 6 feet tall, size 13 shoes and all. We laughed because he took over so many of his Dad's jobs that day, wrapping the ribbon around the tree and placing the angel on top - barefooted. Tim always had to get a chair and Austin loved that he could place the angel on it without one. Placing that angel, is one of the last photos I have of Austin.
Austin was so sweet throughout the tree decorating. He let Noah hang any ornaments he wanted without a fuss. He posed for pictures without poking fun. He even commented on what ornaments he'd always loved. I could tell then he was enjoying the moments; but looking back, it seemed as if his soul was soaking up those memories, knowing they'd be his last with us.
So many memories, simple moments, that day that are now priceless.We ended the evening by going together, just he and I, to get Subway sandwiches (his fave) and watched a Christmas movie as a family. Again, it was the picture perfect day.
If only we could have tucked the boys in the bed that evening and life would go on as we knew and loved it. Instead, just a few short hours of watching my sweet little man, nearly grown, place that angel on the tree, he would himself join the angels. And so, that is why our last perfect day is also our worst nightmare come true.
It is unbelievable that he has been gone from us a year. I don't know how we've managed to get through these days without him - or how we'll face this anniversary. We try to remain strong, with the knowledge that our good-bye is not forever but it still hurts. We miss him every moment.
Tomorrow, we will try to remember the gift Austin gave us his last day. He wanted so much to leave us with a beautifully decorated house for Christmas. We haven't been able to keep the tradition of doing it all in one day, as opening those boxes of memories have just been so hard. Instead, we finished the outside last weekend, in between the tears. Tomorrow, we will remember and honor him by finishing the inside, hard as it will be. The tree, especially that angel, will always hold special memories because of his last gift to us. And as much as we wish he could be here with us, a part of him always remains, as his spirit lives on in our hearts.